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Encounter with out roots (September 21, 2014)
Exchange of experiences with artisans on the Ruta de las Flores
On Sunday, September 21 we went out with joy to experience an encounter with our roots, traditions, culture and history, and to reaffirm that this is our identity as women and as a people. It is important for us, and part of our resistance to know our culture, learn to value it, share it, and reflect upon it with dignity within our family and community life, and within our production initiatives.
We chose to head to the historic and emblematic town of Nahuizalco and later walk along the “Ruta de Las Flores,” visiting Juayúa and Ataco.
Our first stop was the Central Park and the Nahuizalco Center for Artisan Development, where after a small tour around the market, museum and church, we were received by Ms. Margot Peréz, who is a women of náhuat pipil origin, and who has been working for more than twenty years in the indigenous cultural revitalization in Izalco, Nahuizalco and Juayúa. She is also the president of the Council of Nahuat Pipil Native Peoples of Nahuizalco.
Council of Nahuat Pipil Native Peoples of Nahuizalco.
Ms. Margot, in her talk with us, shared briefly how the native population of Nahuizalco was obligated, especially after the genocide in 1932, to deny their cultural roots in order to save their lives; “they hid their language and after that the people began to feel ashamed to say that they were native,” she explained.
“The imposed culture has taught us that the indigenous are illiterate, that we are only to serve, to have children, and to take care of the home. And with that we reach (a point of) marginalization, of which we are victims because of our origin.”
In her work with the Council of Native Peoples, the brave experiences and the dignity of her people stand out and have been transmitted through the grandmothers.
“I identify the native peoples as a big tree that has its roots which (represent) our culture, and from there the branches are born where we work with artisans, agriculture, and the local seed; but we see it now as branches from the same trunk,” she told us.
“Our struggle is that we become visible as native peoples, because past presidents have said that we don´t exist, so we want to tell them, not only to the people of Nahuizalco, but to everyone: the native peoples are present here and we are not just Náhuat Pipiles, there are the brothers Cacahuira, there are the brothers Lencas, there are plenty of native brothers,” she continued explaining to us.
We learned that the work that the Council of Native Peoples does is more than just volunteer, they make a work plan, and they go to communities to raise awareness so the people will recognize their identity. In addition to that, they meet with grandmothers so that they can self-identify and so they don´t feel ashamed, because the grandmothers say “I’m already tired that they call me “refajada” (referring to the typical dress which consists of a large piece of cloth wrapped around the waist, similar to a skirt, and tied off with a smaller piece of cloth, used like a belt). The grandmothers and the natives in general are seen by others as if they are not worth anything, as if they no longer produce. They also treat them as part of a rescue-job, because they are already starting to die, one example is their (disappearing) language which is náhuat. Just like our work with the CEB´s we try to rescue the memory of our communities, so that It won´t just disappear. We learned also that they, like us, are a group in resistance for dignity, truth, liberty and justice. We have common flags in the struggle.
We were also surprised to discover a coincidence in our social work: Three years ago, they started an initiative to hand out food on Sundays to the single grandmothers and grandfathers. This is what we are doing at least twice a year with the single elderly in our communities.
They shared with us that they started with 15 grandparents and they told us how the initiative has grown with time: now after three years they have received 300 grandmothers and fathers each Sunday that come down to receive and share together the lunch they give. All this work is voluntary and they prepare the food with their own contributions and with donations from some of the families in the town and also from some institutions, such as the Technological University. In addition to this they have also strengthened their organization and their integration in order to rescue the indigenous memory and history. All of them prepare the food; it is simple and it is always a recipe from one of the grandparents, that is, nahuat pipil food.
Time was moving quickly, but we really enjoyed this space with Ms. Margot. It was interesting to listen and learn from the experience of others.
Board of Nahuizalco Artisans
After our meeting with Ms. Margot, we met with Mr. Noé Cortéz and Mr. Arcadio Hernández, who are entrepreneurial artisans that work with wicker, natural fibers and other natural resources. Now they are integrated in the Board of Nahuizalco Artisans and they shared with us their experience and their trajectory in order to become members of the board.
“The important thing is to be able to innovate, to be creative and elaborate different types of artisanias, not to stay making the same thing. And it is also important that all that we make has an identity, which responds to our roots as a people, to our history, so that we are contributing something truly good to the current society. We believe in our work, our contribution and we do it with dignity and pride,” Mr. Noé shared with us.
And Mr. Arcadio insisted that the most important thing is to train ourselves in order to better our production, to improve the quality of innovation of our products, so that we can be more competitive in the market.
Mr. Arcadio and Ms. Margot insisted on the necessity to promote among the artisans the importance of the association. Only organized and united are we are strong enough to move forward and to be able to offer a variety of artensanias more complete and rich for the market. Only together and united we will move forward.
We have to get to know ourselves, organize ourselves, plan and create together, open spaces where we can get to know and commercialize our products, because alone and isolated is it more difficult.
The nice thing was when they invited us to get to know the Board of Artisans and to participate with them in a larger meeting to learn more about their objectives and projects as a board. We will be in contact with them in the near future.
Later, happy having not only shared, but established contacts in order to coordinate future exchanges and the possibility to integrate to the Board of Artisans, we headed off towards the direction of Juayúa!!
We had a good time in this town, we saw different artisans and talked with them, and we also found ourselves surrounded by a variety of typical sweets. The weather was chilly and we decided to warm ourselves a bit with a delicious milk “ponche”(warm milk drink made with spices), some preferred to try a fresh drink made with toasted seeds, and others tried a delicious corn “chicha” (a fermented beverage).
It was a short visit, but it was filled with new things for us, and we couldn´t leave without visiting the “Cristo Negro” of the Juayúa church. We were all looking for a moment to be alone with Him. Afterwards, the rain drops started to fall, and we ran to buy plastic ponchos so we could leave, among flowers and fog, without being deterred by the rain, for the town of Apaneca.